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2010 Mississippi State Preview – Offense
Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod
Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod
Posted Jul 24, 2010 2010 Preview - Mississippi State Bulldog Offense

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Preview 2010 - Offense

- 2010 Mississippi State Preview | 2010 Mississippi State Offense
- 2010 Mississippi State Defense | 2010 Mississippi State Depth Chart
- Mississippi State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

What You Need To Know: A year after the MSU offense was among the ten least productive in the nation, head coach Dan Mullen and offensive coordinator Les Koenning got things moving as the Bulldogs went from 115th in the nation in scoring to 72nd, and 113th in total offense to 65th. This isn’t going to be a high-octane attack, and the SEC’s best running game might take a wee step back without Anthony Dixon carrying the load, but it’ll be a better offense. Four starters return to the line and the fifth player, RG Tobias Smith, would’ve started last year if he didn’t get hurt. With the best front five the program has had in years, a decent group of promising backs will combine for yards, while bruising QB Chris Relf will add about 500 yards to the mix if he can keep uber-talent Tyler Russell on the bench. The receiving corps, led by Chad Bumphis, will be great, but they won’t be used enough unless Russell, the better passing option of the two, is in.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Chris Relf
22-41, 283 yds, 5 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Chris Relf
76 carries, 500 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Chad Bumphis
32 catches, 375 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore WR Chad Bumphis
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior RB Robert Elliott and/or Junior RB Vick Ballard
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Addison Lawrence
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Derek Sherrod
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sherrod, 2) C J.C. Brignone, 3) Lawrence
Strength of the offense: Line, Receivers
Weakness of the offense: Passing Game, Loss of Anthony Dixon


Projected Starter: There will be a steady rotation at quarterback, and while everyone wants to see Tyler Russell, junior Chris Relf is the veteran who turned into the best option last year completing 22-of-41 passes for 283 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions. While only two of his picks came in the second game of the season, he still wasn’t the most polished passer. After making great strides this offseason, he should be more than just a runner with better touch and improved decision making ability. His strength, though, is as a load of a runner coming up with 500 yards and two touchdowns including 131 yards and a score on 15 carries in the win over Ole Miss. At 6-4 and 240 pounds, he’s a very big, very tough runner to bring down, and if he can show even more improvement as a passer, he’ll get more time.

Projected Top Reserves:
Expected to be the savior of the entire Mississippi State football program, 6-5, 225-pound redshirt freshman Tyler Russell is the quarterback of the future, and possibly the present if he can keep the mistakes to a minimum. A pro-style passer with size, a live arm, smarts, and the ability to come up with wins in the clutch (at least at the high school level), he has the best passing tools of any Bulldog QB in a long, long time. He threw 40 touchdowns passes and five interceptions on the way to leading Meridian High to the Mississippi state high school championship in 2008, and the expectations are through the roof. While he’s not the runner that Chris Relf is, he’s mobile enough to get by.

Yeah, he’s related. The 5-11, 190-pound Dylan Favre might not have the arm of his famous uncle, but he can rifle the ball and has a speedy release. The 2009 Gatorade Mississippi Player of the Year can put the ball anywhere on the field and moves extremely well, but unfortunately, he doesn’t have Brett’s height. Ultra-productive, he set destroyed most of the state passing records highlighted by a 5,589-yard, 63 touchdown senior year. At only 5-11 and 190 pounds (and that’s being generous), he’s not ideal size-wise, but everything else is there. If he was 6-4 and 225, he’d be playing at Alabama or USC.

Watch Out For … an interesting tug and pull for playing time. It’ll be hard to keep Relf off the field considering he’s the veteran and the team really is good enough to win now, but the upside of Russell is limitless. The second the offense needs more of a passing game, MSU fans will be hoping to see the new guy.
Strength: The rest of the pieces. The MSU quarterbacks aren’t going to be fighting it out for the Heisman, but they have their own talents. Everything else on the offense is in place for the first time in a long time. The running backs are good, the receiving corps is great, and the line might be the best it’s been in years.
Weakness: Passing efficiency and consistency. When the Bulldogs won last year, it was because of the ground game. MSU didn’t throw for more than 200 yards in any of the final seven games and tossed 17 picks with just nine touchdown passes.
Outlook: There will have to be some jockeying done and there might be a rotation depending on the matchup and the needs, but after a little bit of work, the quarterback situation will be the strongest it’s been for several years. Next year it should be outstanding once Relf and Russell establish their roles, but for now, it’ll be better than last year.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: After being derailed by injuries early in his career, 6-0, 215-pound junior Robert Elliott got a little bit of work as a key reserve last year with 221 yards and a touchdown and he turned into a big-time factor down the stretch. While he was invisible for most of the year after running for 80 yards and a score in the opener against Jackson State, he was tremendous when he got the chance down the stretch with 113 yards on 12 carries over the final three games. He’ll have to split time again, but he’ll get the first look at most of the workload early on. While not necessarily a blazer, he checks in at under 4.6 in the 40 and brings a nice thump through the line.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 210-pound JUCO transfer Vick Ballard tore off 1,728 yards and 22 touchdowns last year for Mississippi Gulf Coast CC and now will be a big part of the offense right away. Lightly recruited out of high school, he was going to go to Jackson State before taking the JUCO route and showing what he could do. Extremely quick and with decent hands, he’s a nice fit for the spread and should fit in immediately after a terrific spring.

5-10, 190-pound LaDarius Perkins was a nice recruit last year who got to take a redshirt year. Now he’s ready to play a big role as a specialist and a speed back with tremendous quickness and a great burst able to make one cut and fly. The more he can do as a receiver, the more playing time he’ll receive.

Redshirt freshman Montrell Conner will be the true thumper in the group. The 6-2, 225-pounder is a between-the-tackles runner who hits like a ton of bricks and is next to impossible to get down with just one man. While he bruises tacklers, he also hurts himself with his style and wasn’t healthy throughout the offseason.

When the offense uses a fullback, it’ll be senior Patrick Hanrahan getting the call and he should do more this year. The 5-11, 235-pounder is a hammer of a run blocker and is strong on special teams. After starting out his career at Alabama, he found his way to MSU and spent last year as a spot starter and an every game factor. However, he’s not going to get the ball in his hands.

Working as the backup fullback again is Sylvester Hemphill , a 5-11, 235-pound sophomore who needs to keep battling to find a role. He’s a decent run blocker, but he’s not a runner and he has to do something as a receiver.

Watch Out For … Ballard. With all the hype surrounding Elliott early in his career, he hasn’t been able to live up to the immense expectations. If he’s not great, Ballard will quickly be the main man for the ground game with all the tools to be another Anthony Dixon.
Strength: Great prospects. There might not be a Dixon on the roster who can carry the entire offense, but the foursome of tailbacks has the talent and the skills to combine to make the Bulldog ground game dangerous. The four backs should combine for 2,000 yards behind a veteran offensive front.
Weakness: Dixon. The San Francisco 49er will be next to impossible to replace considering he finished his career with close to 4,000 rushing yards and 46 total touchdowns. He produced against everyone running for 100 yards or more eight times last year and 17 times in his career even though everyone in the stadium knew he was getting the ball.
Outlook: If everyone plays up to their potential and hype, look out. Ballard has the potential to be special, and Elliott, if he’s right, could be the type of playmaker who comes up with a big game now and then. The thunder and lightning redshirt freshman tandem of Conner and Perkins will be productive when they get their chances.
Unit Rating: 7


Projected Starters: Sophomore Chad Bumphis was supposed to be a factor early on, but no one expected him to lead the team as a true freshman. It’s not like it was hard in a receiving corps that lacked big-time talent, but he still came up with an impressive 32 catches for 375 yards and four touchdowns highlighted by a six-catch, 123-yard, one score day against Georgia Tech while also running for 73 yards and a score. At 5-10 and 195 pounds he’s not that big, but he can fly, is fluid through his cuts, and has the raw skills to become a star, but he has to be a sharper route runner and he needs to become craftier against the better SEC defensive backs.

Junior Leon Berry was brought to play right away from the JUCO ranks and was the star of last year’s offseason. It didn’t quite translate to the field with 14 catches for 170 yards as he disappeared over the second half of the season, but he was a strong kickoff returner throughout averaging an impressive 26.7 yards per try. At 6-0 and 205 pounds, he’s a thick, tough target with No. 1 receiver potential if he can use his quickness and open field ability to make more things happen.

For a passing game that needed to find playmakers, tight end Marcus Green stepped up. While he’s only a fullback-like 6-1 and 235 pounds, the star running back recruit made the adjustment and finished second on the team with 27 catches for 306 yards and three scores highlighted by a five-catch, 100-yard, one touchdown day against LSU. He’s a willing blocker, if not a good one, but he’s great at getting into the open field and he’s shifty enough to be a factor for the short to midrange passing game. He’ll be more than just a safety valve.

Projected Top Reserves: With the loss of O’Neal Wilder to the track team, the offense needs more speedy playmakers. The hope is for true sophomore Brandon Heavens to take on a bigger role as the speed receiver after he caught seven catches for 36 yards as a true freshman. While the 5-10, 175-pounder isn’t nearly as big as Wilder, and he’s nowhere near as fast, he has 4.5 wheels and fluid athleticism. A great recruit for the program, he blew off Alabama and Tennessee to become a Bulldog.

At 6-2 and 210 pounds, true sophomore Chris Smith is big, fast, and should be a dangerous target in the rotation with Leon Berry. Able to stretch the field as an X or able to play on the inside, he has all the tools to be a tough, physical mismatch for most corners as long as he hangs on to the ball; concentration was a problem. He got his feet wet as a true freshman catching three passes for 22 yards, and now he’ll do far, far more.

Is Ricco Sanders ready to shine? “The Real Deal” is a 5-11, 195-pound speedster who was supposed to play a big role right away in the offense, but he had a hard time getting eligible. Now he’s in the mix and has the flash and the dash to be a part of the rotation on the outside. He could be a dangerous home run hitter as the season goes on.

Junior Kendrick Cook only caught one pass for 13 yards, but he’s a good receiving tight end prospect who turned into a surprisingly nice blocker. The 6-3, 250-pounder has hands and the athleticism to be more of a factor, but he’ll mostly be used for the ground game.

Watch Out For … Bumphis to be used in a variety of ways. Not only is he going to be the team’s most dangerous wide receiver, but he’ll be used in an H-Back role and occasionally as a Wildcat quarterback. He’s too good to not have the ball in his hands.
Strength: The top four receivers. The stars of the show can play with anyone in the SEC. Bumphis is a playmaker, Berry has great open field ability, Heavens is coming off a great spring and Smith is a burgeoning star. Throw in the solid tight ends, and this would be a great receiving corps if …
Weakness: The offense. The hope is that things will quickly change up with Relf under center, but the passing game took a back seat to the ground attack last year and will likely play second fiddle again. This group is strong, but it needs the ball more.
Outlook: The coaching staff has openly expressed the desire to have a very deep, very talented group of receivers to work with. The very talented part is in place with several great playmakers, but there’s almost no real depth to count on right away. This will be a work in progress, but overall the receiving corps will be better than the stats will indicate.
Unit Rating: 7

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Senior Derek Sherrod went from being a nice backup to start out his career into an All-SEC caliber left tackle erases pass rushers. At 6-6 and 305 pounds he has NFL size with mid-level draft skills, but first he’ll be the anchor for the front wall. He improved by leaps and bound over the last few seasons and has proven to be a steady leader and blocker.

Returning on the other side after starting every game last year is Addison Lawrence, a 6-4, 300-pound junior who became a whale of a run blocking right tackle. Originally a tight end prospect, he hit the weights hard to bulk up, and while he’ll never be a huge NFL-style blocker, he has the drive and the power to barrel over defenders. Athletic, smart, and nasty, he’s growing into a good one.

Derek Sherrod might be the star of the front five, but this is J.C. Brignone’s line. The 6-1, 300-pound senior center overcame shoulder problems suffered early in his career to grow into the job in the middle starting every game last season and 11 as a sophomore. He’s not going to do anything on the move and he’s not a put-him-in-the-fourth-row type of blocker, but he’s a great leader who does a fantastic job at opening up holes. If desperately needed he could easily move over to guard.

Sophomore Tobias Smith would’ve been a key part of the front five last year if he hadn’t suffered an ankle injury. Back and healthy, the 6-5, 305-pound right guard should be a brutish run blocker as one of the team’s strongest players and with the mauling ability to quickly become an all-star performer. He has all the measurables except for the raw bulk, but he’d light up an NFL Combine-like workout.

Junior Quentin Saulsberry was a tackle early on in his career but he’s far better at guard. The 6-2, 305-pound veteran started every game last year at left guard and is still growing into the job still needing to be a bit more consistent and still needing some refinement. The high school defensive tackle is really strong and very athletic for a guard, and now he should come into his own and put the miserable 2008 well in the past.

Projected Top Reserves: Looking to get a crash course in Left Tackle 101 is true freshman Blaine Clausell, a 6-7, 305-pound talent who will work behind Derek Sherrod this year with the hope of being ready to roll next year. He got to school early and was good enough this spring to earn the backup job, but even though he has the raw tools, he still need refinement and could use a redshirt year to learn the ropes.

Sophomore Templeton Hardy was one of the team’s top recruits a few years ago, but he has yet to come close to playing up to his prep hype. The 6-4, 305-pounder will start out working at left guard but he could be moved around where needed. He has the size and he has the functional strength to push people around in the ground game, but he has to show he wants to be a top player.

Watch Out For … Smith. Sherrod is going to make some good money playing right tackle for someone next year at this time, and Brignone will get a long look in an NFL camp, but in the right type of zone-blocking system at the next level, Smith is the best pro prospect. First, though, he has to prove he can stay healthy.
Strength: Experience. Four much-improved, rock-solid starters are back from last year’s line that was terrific for the ground game and strong in pass protection. Smith is like a fifth starter considering he would’ve been the main man at right guard if he didn’t get hurt.
Weakness: Depth. There are several good prospects waiting in the wings, but they need time … and lots of it. Because the starters were such rocks last year, not enough players got to see meaningful time to be ready to roll if injuries strike.
Outlook: One of the team’s biggest issues over the last several years now might be one of the tighter lines in the SEC. If everyone stays healthy, the potential is there to be terrific with Sherrod and Brignone veteran rocks who have been through the wars, and Saulsberry, Lawrence, and Smith all potential all-stars. The line only loses two starters (Sherrod and Brignone) next year, but developing more options will be a must.
Unit Rating: 8

- 2010 Mississippi State Preview | 2010 Mississippi State Offense
- 2010 Mississippi State Defense | 2010 Mississippi State Depth Chart
- Mississippi State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006